Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word (2016)

Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word
Director: Simon Rumley
Writer: Ben KetaiMarc HaimesTony Giglio
Based on: The Last Word and the case of Johnny Frank Garrett
Cast: Sean Patrick FlaneryErin CummingsMike DoyleSue RockDodge PrinceMike GassawayCassie Shea WatsonDevin Bonnée
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 2.10.2016

When Johnny Frank Garrett (Devin Bonnée) was 18 years old, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Now, almost two decades later, the sentence is to be finally carried out. But Johnny still insists he’s innocent and with his last breath he swears vengeance. It doesn’t take long after the execution that people connected to his case start dying.

I had never heard of the real story behind this film before seeing Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word. And now I kind of wish I had watched the documentary about the case instead of this film that got more exhausting with every minute that passed.

If reality is anything like what was shown in this film, what happened to Garrett is nothing short of a horrible tragedy and obviously a massive judicial error. And that’s the interesting and horrifying part. Spinning Garrett into some kind of vengeance monster is a questionable thing, as it allows him retribution on the one hand, but also takes focus away from the story of how he was done wrong.

But I am not generally against the idea of taking a real story as starting point for the film. It’s just that it should be a better film. Admittedly, I enjoyed the beginning, but for me the problems started with Garrett’s execution. The person the story then follows is Adam Redman (Mike Doyle), a fictional juror. His All-American holier-than-thou rational-ideal shtick immediately got on my nerve and I just wanted him to die fast.

Added to my annoyance with Adam was the fact that the film simply became too loud in what was a simply exhausting assault on my nerves that failed to create any tension whatsoever, but made it a chore to sit through the film.

And that is the impression the film left me with: not the tragedy of Garrett’s (apparently) wrongful conviction and execution, not the tense beginning, but an exhausting bloodbath that seemed a burden for everybody.

Summarizing: I hope the documentary is better. Maybe watch that instead.

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